Posts Tagged ‘broadcast journalism’

Should You Shoot Business Videos With Smartphones?

Monday, July 1st, 2013

It is a difficult task envisioning us hiring a man we regularly see and hear soliciting business. He may be committed to his craft, but as a walking billboard for his business, he continuously makes a mistake:  He often doesn’t tuck in his shirt, an approach we believe most people in his field would disagree with. That consistent image blocks any consideration by us of using or recommending his services. In other words, his image prevents us from wanting to learn more about whatever content he offers.

By comparison, consider the business owner craving to save money and paying someone just a few hundred bucks to build a website. The site can’t handle certain browsers and looks horrible on mobile devices. This influences potential customers and reduces the chances of them checking out his or her content.

These are the scenarios we return to when bloggers suggest businesses simply grab a smartphone and shoot video because content, as opposed to appearance and perception, matters most.

When Keith studied broadcast journalism at Northwestern University, he focused on both his reporting and shooting video skills. An underlying reason his stories stood out was that the stories looked good. His classmates may have reported on equally interesting issues, but the message sometimes got lost because viewers couldn’t get past video that looked as if someone’s mom shot it at a birthday party.

So if a website, an office or the way employees dress are a representation of your business, why wouldn’t the quality of video have a similar impact? Sure, it’s hard to care about quality if your video happens to catch a normally docile sheep angrily protecting her young by chasing off a hungry wolf. But this is not often an option or relevant for businesses. Video can be an effective selling device, but it can also waste everyone’s time if it looks like it got final approval from a high school production class. Yes, content is important, but people won’t automatically watch or open a door to new business if you look like an amateur. If looks don’t matter, try untucking your shirt for a week.

Crisis Communications: Don’t Run So Far Way

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Part 3 in a blog series

Part 1

Part 2

When I worked on investigative stories which raised questions about the actions of businesses, individuals or government agencies, we typically interviewed several people, shot plenty of video and gathered documents. Sometimes the subject of the investigation only emailed a statement in response.

I often had two compelling sides of a story with one side providing me with most of the elements I needed to put together a special report. When appropriate, I tried to find ways to include more information on behalf of the side that was not fully participating. But, especially in broadcast journalism, you can only accomplish so much when one side emails a few sentences and the other is all too willing to grant passionate sound bites, compelling video and important documents.

Many times, I didn’t understand why the focus of the investigation provided only a statement. Did someone have something to hide? Did someone not believe we would deliver fair reporting? Did someone believe the best way to handle such circumstances is to allow them to “blow over”?

Some of the subjects put on the hot seat had what appeared to be the proper people on staff to handle tough questions. They had their own persuasive counter-arguments that could neutralize the accusations against them. But too often, people, companies and agencies took what I assume they consider the safe path and provided a statement that might as well have been uttered by a robot still undergoing beta testing. And when we aired the story, the sound and visuals seemed slanted toward the side delivering all the goods.

If you really want to get a fair story during a case of crisis communications, then open your doors and grant an interview with a spokesperson who I assume gets paid for more than typing out spin. Don’t argue passionately about your position to a reporter on the phone and then only be willing to provide a statement that took someone two days to conjure up. Invite the reporter or TV crew over instead of claiming such a visit will disrupt everyone’s day.

In the end, your preference may remain the story never hit air or made its way to print. But if that’s not one of our options, then you’ll almost always look better when you stand up for yourself instead of hiding behind an email. Even if a company committed an error, the public generally is willing to forgive when someone stands up in front of them and takes responsibility. But only releasing a statement with a logo keeps you sitting in the shadows while someone else shouts out their grievances from a mountaintop.

Don’t be part of the flock. Don’t run so far away.

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Journalists Should Follow Their Dreams. And I Mean It!


A fellow reporter introduced us to “his” intern from Arizona State University. The intern walked into a cesspool of cynical people sitting in their seats. As if fathers warning their sons, several people surrounding me warned the intern to re-direct his career path away from broadcast journalism.

When the reporter introduced the intern to me, I told him to “follow his dreams.” The group exploded in laughter. I unintentionally tried to inspire the college student with words said in a deadpan fashion. I portrayed myself as a beaten man giving one last thumbs up before my head disappeared into quicksand. Until the day I left the TV station, co-workers randomly told me to “follow my dreams.”

I genuinely meant, “follow your dreams.” I know firsthand broadcast journalism isn’t always glowing in the glory of Walter Cronkite. Instead of regularly saying thank you for your contributions, some stations simply hope you appreciate being employed. Instead of handing you a company credit card for out-of-town stories, some stations will want you to pay up front and ask you, if you forgot to obtain an itemized receipt, to call the restaurant and request someone to fax the necessary documentation related to your meal. (The restaurant may hesitate to help you because the station required you to give the nice waitress a tip you consider to be low.) While some stations are happy to try to meet your vacation requests, others will ask you to calculate every day off a year in advance. While some stations will congratulate you on a new job and notify the public of your part in the company’s success, other stations will view anyone who leaves as a cousin of Benedict Arnold. While some stations will watch your time with James Bond technology, other stations will define your efforts by quality not quantity. And some stations simply pay better.

Young journalists shouldn’t walk into any job as if they landed on a new planet of shiny, happy, perfect people. But young journalists also should follow their dreams and never let a disgruntled news veteran discourage them. Most of my college classmates in broadcast journalism never tried for their first job after hearing the salary and the small city they might initially live in. I, on the other hand, rented an apartment in North Carolina, drove about an hour each way to work and smiled like a young fool filled with passion.

Follow your dreams. I mean it. And if a station inexplicably takes months to reimburse your out-of-town expenses after you light up the airwaves with a series of awesome live shots, don’t worry. You’ll eventually get your money … I think.